I will admit that I scrolled past this ruling the first time I saw it — largely because it had to do with a mortgage foreclosure and because the ruling itself is really long (and I mean really long) — but someone who knows a lot more about the law in this industry pointed it out so I am circling back to share it with all of you. A bankruptcy court judge in Texas has reduced the fee award in a case that involved two trials — one on the underlying facts of the case and a second on the amount of attorney’s fees that should be awarded — to about $285,000 from the original request of $874,068.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Trevino v. U.S. Bank can be accessed by clicking here.
The original lawsuit was filed by the plaintiffs nearly a decade ago. A trial was finally held in 2019, and the judge denied the plaintiffs’ claim for damages but found the defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and awarded $1,000 in statutory damages and $9,000 in punitive damages. The judge also awarded the plaintiffs reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses. That is where part two of this saga begins.
Three years later, a second trial was held, this time over the amount of attorney’s fees to be awarded. Summing up his thoughts on the matter, Judge Eduardo V. Rodriguez, the chief judge for the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, kicks off his ruling with, “A request for attorney’s fees should not result in a second major litigation.”
There is a lot to unpack in the ruling, which has 344 footnotes, and it’s likely that you won’t read it all, or even most of it, and that’s ok. But this should serve as a warning to anyone that seeks to defend cases to the death. An award of $10,000 in damages was increased more than twentyfold when you factor in the attorney’s fees that are now being paid. Sure, it’s a lot less than what the plaintiff’s were seeking, but in the end, who really won?